Conciliatory gestures

After hostile posturing from both sides positive signals are emanating from Washington and Islamabad to address the issue of trust deficit. Defense Secretary of the United States James Mattis, while speaking to press members at the Pentagon said that Washington will restore security aid to Pakistan if it sees “decisive” action against terror groups including Haqqani network. He said,” we are still working with Pakistan, and we would restore the aid if we see decisive movement against the terrorists, who are as much of a threat against Pakistan as they are against us.”

Similarly, U.S National Security advisor H.R MacMaster, in an interview with Voice of America, said that Pakistan is a country with tremendous human resource and economic potential and we does not wish to see it turn into Pariah State like North Korea that uses its nuclear weapons as leverage. He, however, alleged that the US President Trump is frustrated with Pakistan’s double standards while targeting terrorists. MacMaster said that Trump has great sympathy towards Pakistani people because they suffered the most in the fight against terror. He recalled the horrendous attack on Army Public School two years ago.

Pakistan has also showed willingness to mend cleavage in bilateral relations. Speaking at foreign policy issues at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi on Saturday, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said that Pakistan believed in engagement with the United States despite the recent hostile statements from Washington. She clarified that Haqqani network is not working inside Pakistan. However, on the contrary enemies of Pakistan are gaining foothold in Afghanistan. Foreign Secretary said Pakistan was ensuring an honorable return of Afghan Refugees to their homeland and is working on their rehabilitation.

Ms Janjua has candidly articulated Islamabad position of zero tolerance against using its soil by banned outfits for carrying out terrorist activities in Afghanistan. Military clean up operation “Zarb-i-Azb”in Tribal areas and Operation “Radul Fasad”in settled areas of the country demonstrate its resolve to wipe out the scourge of terrorism for ever. Fencing the border with Afghanistan is a note wordy step to check the cross border movement of militants.  However, the political leadership has not succeeded to convince the United States and other countries about Pakistan efforts to eradicate the menace of terrorism. No clear foreign policy guidelines have been given to the diplomats posted in foreign countries and the United Nations to highlight Pakistan’s narrative abroad. On the contrary, Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif never miss an opportunity to charge sheet his own country in foreign countries by using his cliché phraseology, “we should put our own house in order.”This is not the narrative of Pakistan at all.

Foreign Secretary has rightly emphasized the return of Afghan Refugees to their homeland. But their return to Afghanistan and rehabilitation there is a gigantic task for which the support UNHCR and International Community is must. The pace of repatriation of Afghan Refugees is going on a snail pace and in winter this process has to be suspended.  Dearth of funds for refugees’ repatriation is also a major factor inhibiting the return of Afghan Refugees to their country. It remains to be seen how skillfully the present government proceeds to iron out difference in bilateral relations with the United States by showing leadership qualities and spirit of Pakistan first.